The 2009-10 Cliff Lee trades

The results of the Mariners-Rangers Cliff Lee trade are actually pretty good.

Many point to the unbelievable and disappointing season of Justin Smoak as the trade’s failure, but if you look beyond that, the Mariners ended up with a great deal. It’s why I’m still a believer in Jack Zduriencik despite the team’s continuous offensive struggles.

The Mariners sent Justin Smoak down to Triple-A Tacoma earlier this week after showcasing a paltry .189 batting average through the entire season, never getting above .230 or .240. That’s not even close to “good” for a first round draft pick, especially someone on who the organization placed a large amount of hope for the future. Smoak at times has shown flashes of brilliance for a few days, only to fall into a pit for several weeks.

It isn’t good baseball.

But, Smoak wasn’t the only player the Mariners received in the trade. Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matthew Lawson (minors) were also shipped out to Seattle. Beavan has had some success since his return from Tacoma, especially in his recent 8-inning rout of the Tampa Bay Rays. Lueke was traded for John Jaso and Lawson is now in the Cleveland Indians’ minors system.

So only Beavan and Smoak are of any real value to the M’s.

In the initial Lee trade that sent him to Seattle, the Phillies received a handful of Bill Bavasi era prospects. As noted here, the trade is considered a bust for the Phillies (not that us Mariner fans didn’t already know that these “prospects” would be).

Pitchers J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont along with outfielder Tyson Gilles were supposed to give some minor league depth in Philadelphia. Instead, that hasn’t happened.

Ramirez has an ERA in the 4.10s, and the first-rounder Aumont continues to have control struggles without displaying the power that (supposedly) made him attractive in the first place. And Gilles? Yeah, he was recently suspended for an indefinite amount of time.

At least Seattle has seen a full two years of work from Smoak and again, most recently, some promise by Beavan in terms of development. While Smoak has fared poorly in Seattle, his athletic potential is there. The fences at Safeco Field don’t need to be moved in (see my previous post), or anything like that.

In that sense, I believe the Mariners came out on the upper side of the entire trade situation. Yes, Texas went on to the World Series later in the year, but the Mariners gained talented depth and remain loaded with talent in the minor leagues. Look at the Oakland Athletics this year, and how they’re building on raw talent instead of purchasing the biggest free agent on the market. (Yes, that’s a Prince Fielder joke, ladies and gents)

Of course, Philadelphia ended up winning the trade after all, by signing the great Cliff Lee to a big contract. Trade him for prospects and then sign him anyway later on? That’s pretty stealthy.

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